There seems to be a myth that football fans in Catalunya do not share the successes of the Spanish national team.
The bitter rivalry between FC Barcelona and Real Madrid has served to intensify this notion, while over the years, there have been campaigns for Catalonia to be officially recognized by FIFA as a national team for competitive games, which if it were to happen one day, would mean Spain may not be able to call on the future Puyols, Xavis and Cescs.
But there’s a feeling that things are starting to change, especially after Spain cast aside all presumptions of ever-present nationalistic divisions in the squad following their Euro 2008 triumph. And now, thanks to the heavy Catalan feel in the current La Seleccion set-up, the rest of the world is starting to see a close bond between fans across Spain.
Spain’s 23-man squad for the 2010 World Cup consists of seven Catalans: Victor Valdes, Gerard Pique, Carles Puyol, Joan Capdevila, Cesc Fabregas, Sergio Busquets and Xavi. In addition, there are three others who are not of Catalan birth but call FC Barcelona home: Andres Iniesta, Pedro and David Villa.
Furthermore, Dutch coach Bert van Marwijk has also hailed the influence of Barcelona’s style of football on the Spain team. Although, if you read further in his pre-match press conference, you’ll find that more than anything, he’s actually praising the past Dutch masters such as Rinus Michels, Johan Cruyff and Johan Neskeens. But back to the issue at hand.
Jose Montilla, the president of the Generalitat de Catalunya [Government of Catalunya] has voiced his support for Spain, predicting La Roja to beat the Netherlands 2-0 in the final. In a recent radio interview, he even went on to commend the presence of Spanish flags in Catalunya during matches, explaining that it’s “normal because a lot of people like football, and they identify with La Seleccion because of the large number of players from FC Barcelona.”
Cruyff himself, despite his allegiances with the Dutch and all things Catalan and Barcelona, has also tipped Spain to win the World Cup, as does new Barca president Sandro Rosell.
There is a misconception that the whole or most of Catalunya do not support the Spanish national team, or that they only support the side because of Catalan players in the squad. Sure, there may be one or two who do not care much for the colors of La Furia Roja, but it’s not any different than the odd Brazilian who would rather watch Formula One than the Selecao.
So, is it only recently that the Catalans have warmed up to the national team? Goal.com Espana Chief Editor Sergio Aguilera explains:
“The ideas of Catalanism are more often applied to clubs than to the national team, driven by the traditional affiliation of FC Barcelona with the Catalan school of thought, as an opposition to the traditional Spanish nationalism of arch-rivals Real Madrid.
“Not counting a small minority of Catalan extremists who may applaud Spain’s defeats, the majority of the Catalan population supports the Spanish national team, an endorsement that has been consistent throughout the years, as seen in previous tournaments, and comes regardless of the number of players with Catalan origin playing in the squad.
“Some Catalan inhabitants may support Catalan ideas in their daily life, but national football seems to be off-limits of those ideas.
“This World Cup constitutes the perfect example of this duality: the TV audience rates in Catalunya for Spain matches are as high as the rest of the country, and Spanish victories are equally celebrated in Catalan cities. As a matter of fact, when Spain achieved the qualification for the final last Wednesday, thousands of Catalans went to Plaza de Canaletas in Barcelona to celebrate the victory, wearing Spanish shirts and waving Spanish flags, just like the celebrations in every other city in the country. Surprisingly enough, Plaza de Canaletas is the traditional venue for celebrations of the Catalanist FC Barcelona supporters.
“The great virtue of the Spanish football team lies in the fact that it constitutes the only aspect of political, social and cultural life in the country that truly unites the often divided Spanish population. If Spain win the World Cup on Sunday, the title will be celebrated equally in every part of the country.
“In Barcelona and other parts of Catalunya, the celebrations will be held under the flag of Spain - maybe accompanied by the Senera (Catalunya flag) - but certainly with the red and yellow of Spanish flags leading the party. Every Spaniard will find their own reason to make the Spanish victory their own, regardless of political, social or cultural ideas.”